The day is dedicated to expressing gratitude and appreciation for the invaluable role they play in saving lives, promoting health and alleviating suffering.
National Doctors Day, celebrated on July 1, also serves as a reminder of the birthday of Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roya highly respected physician and statesman who made substantial contributions to the medical field.
On this occasion, TOI Medithon, an outreach initiative of the Times of India to educate people about critical health conditions, organized a virtual conclave that brought together doctors from different specialties and policy makers.
Session 4 – The doctor-patient relationship in the age of the Internet and disinformation
The goal was to celebrate these health heroes and focus on the challenges they face. Titled National Doctors Day: a tribute to the torch bearers of our health, this one-day webinar was broadcast on TOI’s FB platform on July 1st. It included various panel discussions on a range of topics starting from physician burnout and the telehealth era to violence against physicians, doctor-patient relationship in internet era and disinformationand more.
In today’s digital age, we face the challenge of an overload of unverified and conflicting information available on the internet.
This abundance of misleading content has created a negative awareness among the masses, often straining the relationship between patients and doctors. In the session on The doctor-patient relationship in the age of the Internet and misinformationOur group of distinguished physicians explores the importance of reliable sources of information, empowering patients to make informed decisions and promoting effective communication with healthcare professionals.
The panel discussion includes Dr. Ashok Seth, President, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute and Fortis Healthcare Medical Council, Dr. Sanjeev Bagai, President, Nephron Clinic, Dr. HS Chhabra, Head of Spine & Rehabilitation Center, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, and Dr. Girish Tyagi, secretary cum chancellor, Delhi Medical Council.
We are often faced with the question: Is the Internet eroding the doctor-patient relationship? Well, I think it’s been strengthened in the Internet age, Dr. Seth said. He believes the internet provides patients with the information they need to make informed decisions. With the evolution of science and medicine, very complex techniques have emerged and some of them are for very serious diseases. The fact that something that was a treatment option some 20 years ago is becoming obsolete today is confusing to everyone, especially patients. But they need the right information to be part of the decision making process. Take, for example, transcatheter aortic valve implantation. If I have to explain this complex procedure to my patients, it will take me 30 to 40 minutes. So, I ask them to search the internet and then get back to me with their questions. This makes the process easier and faster while strengthening the doctor-patient relationship, he said.
Dr. Seth believes that if patients are part of the healthcare decision-making process, they will also be better managed in terms of treatment and preventative measures.
Echoing similar thoughts about the importance of patient involvement in making health-related decisions, Dr. Tyagi said, “Patients and their families should be allowed to ask doctors open-ended questions. Shared decision-making can be successful through effective, two-way communication between the physician and patients. In addition, clinicians should practice active listening. Once the patient has been examined, he should be informed of the treatment options available, their benefits and complications, the necessary precautionary measures and also the alternatives. This will lead to informed consent.
He notes that poor communication between doctor and patient leads to many complications, including violence. Effective will foster a healthy relationship between them while promoting shared decision-making, essential for successful treatment options.
We, at the Delhi Medical Council, emphasize the importance of ABCDE. A stands for helpfulness (of doctors), B stands for behavior, C stands for communication and consent, D stands for decision and E stands for empathy, Dr. Tyagi said.
One of the major challenges patients face when it comes to making informed decisions is the availability of conflicting information from various sources. This is where open dialogues between doctors and patients come to the rescue.
It is an ethical obligation for us doctors to try to promote a sort of therapeutic alliance with our patients. We should first try to find out the source of their information and then help them evaluate the merits of the source. While there are benefits to trying to get information from a reliable source, all of this should be considered on its merits and cannot be trusted blindly, said Dr. Chabra. According to him, doctors need to help patients intelligently judge the reliability of their sources.
We should always assure our patients that they can always come back to us if they have any apprehensions or come across any other thoughts or information. To sum up, the patient’s point of view is very important and should be recognised, but it is our duty to be able to guide them towards evidence-based practices and suitable sources of information, said Dr. Chabra.
While conflicting information is a major challenge, another factor contributing to patient confusion is inaccurate information.
Look at the articles that came out during the first year of the pandemic in reputable journals. 36% of them were withdrawn due to inaccuracies, faulty methodology, or interpretation of fabricated data. As medical professionals, we must be careful where we read our information. Physicians should be trained to critically read and analyze data, said Dr. Bagai.
He is of the opinion that medical associations in states, national bodies and the government should make connections between medical professionals and the people who actually publish them, not only in print but also on the internet. This, according to him, can reduce the possibility of misinformation.
I think Twitter is a great medium where internationally famous people can come together and share their thoughts on certain items, methodologies, processes or treatments. Additionally, we, as medical professionals, need to be honest with people and clear with our communication, Dr. Bagai.
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Image Source : timesofindia.indiatimes.com